Strike impacts Freeport’s Grasberg mine, workers ‘resigned’ – by Susan Taylor (Reuters U.S. – May 25, 2017)

TORONTO – Freeport McMoRan Inc said Thursday that mining and milling rates at its Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia have been affected by an extended strike, and a “large number” of approximately 4,000 absentee workers were deemed to have resigned.

Escalating labor tension is a further disruption for Freeport, entangled in a lengthy dispute with Indonesia over rights to the giant mine, which has cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars. Arizona-based Freeport is now trying to mitigate the impact of workforce issues on mining and milling rates, which it would not quantify, by re-allocating resources, training additional workers and supplementing its mill throughput with available stockpiles, spokesman Eric Kinneberg said.

Benchmark copper prices hit three-week highs Thursday as worries about prolonged disruptions at Grasberg triggered short-covering, ahead of a long holiday weekend in Europe and top consumer China. Freeport Indonesia union industrial relations officer, Tri Puspital, told Reuters on Saturday that the strike had halved Grasberg’s output.

A union representing an estimated 9,000 workers, excluding contractors, recently extended its strike at Grasberg for a second month, in a dispute over employment terms and layoffs.

Freeport, the world’s largest publicly traded copper miner, said some 4,000 workers, including a limited number of contractors, have not reported to work despite multiple summons. “As a result, a large number of these workers were deemed to have resigned, consistent with agreed industrial relations guidelines and prevailing law,” Kinneberg said.

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